Welcome to BlackPast
BlackPast is dedicated to providing reliable information on the history of Black people across the globe, and especially in North America. Our goal is to promote greater understanding of our common human experience through knowledge of the diversity of the Black experience and the ubiquity of the global Black presence.
CELEBRATING ASIAN AMERICAN AND PACIFIC ISLANDER HERITAGE MONTH
This month, we celebrate Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month in our own unique way by exploring the intersections between Black and Asian history. Asians and Africans have been interacting since as far back as the 8th century trade between the East Coast of Africa and Asia, which among other things led to the emergence of a new hybrid culture along the coast by the 16th century, the same period when the African Samurai, Yasuke was said to have served Lord Nobunaga in his castle.
Several centuries later, African and Asians would be debating anti-colonial strategy on a world platform at the Bandung Asian-Africa Conference held in Indonesia in April 1955. African Americans in attendance included Adam Clayton Powell, a Democratic congressman from New York, and author Richard Wright. Haddad-Fonda notes in his entry on the Bandung Conference that Wright, who documented his experiences in Indonesia in his book, The Color Curtain, felt a connection between his identity as an African American and the identities of the non-Western leaders gathered in Bandung, whom he described as “the despised, the insulted, the hurt, the dispossessed—in short, the underdogs of the human race.” Below our gallery focus on Asia and the Pacific Islands.
Asia and Pacific Island History
BASEBALL SEASON IS HERE!!!
A register of ‘Negroes in Organized Baseball’ in the 19th-century lists close to fifty individuals who participated in the sport in the decade or two before the Negro League appeared. Moses Fleetwood Walker, an Ohio-born catcher who played for Oberlin College’s inaugural varsity team in 1881 and then the Toledo Blue Stockings in 1883, was one of them. He played for Toledo in 1884 when the organization joined the American Association, and the team was promoted to the major league. Walker played 42 games for Toledo and was the last African American to play for a major league team until Jackie Robinson walked on the field in his Brooklyn Dodgers uniform on April 16, 1947. Walker was a confident and intellectual person who challenged dominant White American attitudes toward Blacks. He published a newspaper focused on African American issues and was unafraid to share his views. Read the entry on Walker to learn more about his life on and off the field.
L- R: Moses Fleetwood Walker, Lincoln Giants, Philadelphia Bacharach, John Henry “Pop” Lloyd, and Andrew “Rube” Foster.
By 1900 the Colored Baseball Leagues had emerged. The professional teams were in Chicago, New York, Philadelphia and Norfolk, West Virginia. A standout name of that era is the powerful slugger, Spottswood Poles, who was associated with the Hillsdale athletics club, the Philadelphia Lincoln Giants, for whom he allegedly batted a .440 in 1911, and the Atlantic City Bacharach Giants. The Giants also fielded the powerful shortstop, John Henry “Pop” Lloyd, who began his career with the Cuban Giants where he earned the nickname “El Cuchara”. Lloyd was considered by Babe Ruth to be the greatest baseball player of all time.
Negro League Baseball
The Negro National League was founded in 1920 and was the brainchild of Andrew “Rube” Foster, who also discovered John Henry “Pop” Lloyd. The league had an eight-team circuit, including Chicago, which had two teams, the Cuban Stars, and six other city-based teams: Dayton, Detroit, St Louis, Kansas City, Indianapolis, Dayton, and Detroit. Players were not professionals and games were held after work. On Sundays there were “doubleheaders” which drew crowds in the thousands, sometimes tens of thousands.
Following Foster’s death there was a brief hiatus between 1930-1934 when the league was revived. The creation of the Negro American Leage in 1937 opened the game up to even more talent. These regional leagues were a major source of entertainment and training ground for the Black talent recruited by major league teams after World War Two. We pay homage to the League and some of its star players.
James "Cool Papa" Bell (1903-1991)
Many claim that Hall of Famer, James Thomas “Cool Papa” Bell, who played for the St. Louis Stars, to be the fastest hitter in baseball history. In in his three seasons of winning batting titles in 1928, 1930, and 1931 he allegedly stole both second and third base following a single.
Josh GIbson (1911-1947)
Joshua “Josh” Gibson was a damaging power hitter with a .351 career batting average. While his exact numbers are lost to time, baseball historians note that he connected for a home run every 10.6 at-bats, and that his career total is approximately 800 home runs!
Paige v. GIbson
Satchel Paige (1906-1982)
The greatest pitching attraction in baseball history. Leroy Robert “Satchel” Paige made his MLB debut at age 42 with the Cleveland Indians, going 6-1 with a 2.48 ERA and helping them to a World Series title. Paige later played for the Kansas City Athletics and the St. Louis Browns. Michael Serles entry, which you can read here, notes that during his career Paige was celebrated by players like “Joe DiMaggio and Dizzy Dean who extolled him as the greatest pitcher of all time. Paige’s skills, performance, longevity, and personality drew a record-setting crowd in 1948 in Cleveland of 72,562 to see him pitch.”
Oscar Charleston (1896-1954)
Charleston is one of the most iconic all-around players in baseball history. His two decades playing in the Cuban and Negro leagues made him a formidable force. He once hit .363 at-bat. After retirement he worked to recruit talent from the Negro Leagues toward the MLB. A runaway who joined the Army at age 15, Charleston played baseball for the all-White Manila league, and also ran track for the army. Read Charleston’s fascinating biography here.
Larry Doby (1923-2003)
Larry Doby was the first African American player in American League history to ever directly jump from the Negro Leagues to the majors. He went on to be named to seven All-Star teams and win a World Series in his second season in Cleveland. He joined the Cleveland Indians in July 1947 and went on to be named to seven All-Star teams and win a World Series in his second season in Cleveland.
Herbert Alphonso "Rap" Dixon (1902-1944)
At age 20 Dixon joined the Harrisburg Giants of the Eastern Colored League, the highest paid African American team. During the 1924 season he played for the Washington Potomacs and toured Japan in 1927-1928 on an All-Star team selected by Raleigh “Biz” Mackey. In 1932 Dixon played for the Pittsburgh Crawfords, called the “Yankees of Black Baseball” and was joined on the roster by Satchel Paige, Judy Johnson, Ted “Double Duty” Radcliffe, and Josh Gibson. Learn more about Dixon, the first African American to hit a home run in Yankee Stadium.
Baseball Aficionado's Discuss Herbert Dixon
Jackie Robinson (1919-1972)
Jack Roosevelt “Jackie” Robinson played for the Kansas City Monarchs in the Negro American League. He was still with the Monarchs when Branch Rickey, owner of the Brooklyn Dodgers approached him about playing for the team. In 1945 he was signed to the team, and two years later on April 16, 1947, Robinson took the field to cheers of true baseball fans everywhere. Robinson was Rookie of the Year, in 1947, and in 1949 Negro League MVP. He helped the Dodgers win the championship in 1955 and became the first African American inductee to the Baseball Hall of Fame, in 1962.
Ernest "Ernie" Banks (1931-2015)
Ernie Banks was the first African American player signed to the Chicago Cubs, and the first African American manager of a MLB team. Banks played 19 seasons with the Cubs, and became one of the most decorated players in the team’s history. He was voted an All-Star 14 times (1955-1962, 1965, 1967, 1969), National League MVP two times (1958, 1959), and earned 1 Gold Glove award (1960). His career statistics were a .274 batting average, 512 home runs, 2,583 hits, and 1,636 runs batted in. Banks was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1977 on the first ballot. You can read more about Ernie Banks here.
John Jordan "Buck" O'Neil (1911-2006)
Another Kansas City Monarch alum, in 1942 O’Neil led them in a four-game sweep of the Homestead Grays in the league championship, batting with a .353 average. In two different seasons, 1940 and 1946, O’Neil won the league batting title, hitting .345 and .350. Read Tavis Alan Malcom’s entry on O’Neil here.
In 1948 O’Neil replaced Frank Duncan as manager of the Kansas City Monarchs. As a manager and scout, O’Neil sent more African Americans to the Major Leagues in his career than any other individual, including future Hall-of-Famers like Ernie Banks and Lou Brock. O’Neil was renowned for his knowledge of the game, but also for his leadership of younger players, and he never lost a contest when selected to manage a team in the All-Star games of 1950, 1953, 1954, and 1955. He was hired as a scout by the Chicago Cubs in 1956, and in 1962 the Cubs made him the first African American manager of a major league team.
EXPLORE OUR CONTENT
Global Black History
BLACKPAST CHILDREN'S EDITION
- Tulsa and Black Wall Street
- Nine Minutes in May: How Ge...
- Juneteenth: The Growth of a...
- Ruby Bridges (1954 – )
Willie Mays (1931-)
Mays began his professional career at age 16 with the Birmingham Black Barons of the Negro Southern League. While still in high school he was offered a contract with the New York Giants but didn’t begin playing with them until he was 20 years old. Read more here on Mays’ career, which saw him win Rookie of the Year honors in his first years. Mays is the only outfielder ever with more than 7,000 putouts.
Some Commentaries on the Negro League
100 Years of the Negro National League
WHO'S NEW ON BLACKPAST?
HEY TEACHERS! We’re growing our resources for educators and would like to hear from you about your experiences teaching Black history either in the compulsory or post-secondary sector. What are some best practices you can share? What online and/or physical resources do you find useful. What have been/are the challenges of teaching Black history? Did the pandemic change the environment for content diversity for better or worse? Tag your posts with #BlackPastClassroom and let’s share resources with everyone!